X-Men: First Class or They Finally Made A GREAT X-Men Movie!
(We interrupt Brave Blog’s 5 Modern Japanese Films Everyone Should See to bring you this review of X-Men: First Class. This comes as a complete and utter shock to the writer/editor/moron who writes this crap. Never did he expect to actually PAY to see this movie, let alone go see it TWICE! When one friend heard of this she not only took his temperature but also checked the back of his head, just to make sure he wasn’t some Pod-person/Spore. So read on and be prepared to be shocked and amazed at that rarest of rarities… A Great X-Men Movie!)
X-Men: First Class was a movie I had been dreading since it was initially announced in pre-production. I am one of those Comic Book Snobs that feels that when a Superhero franchise gets optioned for a film that it should stick to its source material as closely as it can, giving some leeway for modernizing some of its concepts. But this is the X-Men, a franchise that barely can keep its comic book continuity straight from decade to decade. Telling the tale of the “Original Class” of X-Men should be pretty straightforward, what with the original comics being easily accessible.
Well we are dealing with Hollywood here my friends so we should not expect an exact re-telling of Uncanny X-Men #1 (as cool as that could be). What we get here is a 2 hour version of the X-Men Movie Universe version of the start of the Charles Xavier/Magneto relationship. The other Mutants are in here merely to play stunt men in some otherwise entertaining fight scenes. What we get as an end result of this movie is, no joke, the BEST movie Marvel has put out to date. It is easily the best in the X-Men franchise of films. It surpasses both Iron Man movies because the core of the movie is Xavier and Magneto with both characters being true to what they are in the comics. Ladies and Gentlemen, X-Men: First Class is the best “What If?” story never printed!
Let me be utterly honest, I went into this movie with expectations so low that there had to be something in it that pleased me. That is the beauty of low expectations. The thing is I walked away from the movie thinking “Holy shit! I really liked that movie!” Marvel can be just as hit or miss with their movies as DC. For every Iron Man or Thor there are a smattering of terrible Punisher movies or, even worse, Ghost Rider. But like their Distinguished Competition, when Marvel scores, they score HUGE!
Everything clicked with this. The story was tight, I liked all the characters and the action scenes were pretty great and looked believable or at least as believable as one can expect of a comic book movie. Actually what helps this movie is that the colors used in the movie made it feel like a comic book without seeming comical. It felt like I was watching a Lee/Kirby story come to life. No Marvel movie had captured that vibe before. They did away with ludicrous leather flight suits of the first 3 X-Men movies and proved that the classic Blue/Yellow flight suits of the original X-Men can work without looking totally stupid. I’ve always loved those classic X-Men uniforms and was very pleased.
The movie is more than just about super-hero fashion however. It is morality play about arrogance, bigotry and revenge. The story boldly takes Charles Xavier to task for his early philosophy on Human/Mutant relations, that being Mutants should blend in to society for peaceful co-existence. In Xavier’s arrogance, he forgets the fact that not all Mutants can hide their powers the way he can. His is a very subtle racism, saying that all Mutants should want to appear “normal”. This is a very Northeastern White Liberal racism that by the end of the movie Xavier realizes what he wanted was not the right thing to want at all. We watch Xavier alter his vision for Human/Mutant relations based on his relationships with Magneto and Mystique.
In Magneto, Charles Xavier finds an angry, tortured soul that is bent on revenge. Xavier maybe arrogant but he simultaneously is one of the most compassionate characters in the history of comics. It is that compassion that allows him to identify with Erik Lehnsherr and want to quell the thirst for revenge that drives him. The problem is that Erik Lehnsherr IS Magneto already by the time he and Xavier befriend each other, only Lehnsherr is kind of in denial about it. Magneto is the person Lehnsherr is denying himself to be and thus he needs to cast off the last remnants of his old life to truly become “Master of Magnetism”. No scene in the movie represents this more as after Magneto claims his revenge on the man who killed his mother. The whole movie Erik Lehnsherr struggles to master his powers. It is only after revenge is taken and he accepts himself as Magneto that we see what he is truly capable of. Charles Xavier had lost the battle for Magneto’s soul before they even met, he just did not want t accept the reality of it.
Mystique is probably the character whose eyes that we, as viewers, are supposed to be seeing the events of the movie through. Being blue skinned and scaly, there is no character for who the word “normal” is a double-edged sword for than young Raven Darkholme. She wants to be “Normal” but her view of what “Normal” is, changes the most from the beginning of the movie until its conclusion. Looking “Normal” is the initial drive of the character. She believes in Xavier’s philosophy blending in to society to go unnoticed. The character has a metamorphosis as she comes in to contact with more Mutants. Of all the people that Xavier and Magneto recruit, the only one who is constantly hiding herself is Mystique. This is something that Magneto points out as being inherently wrong with how both Xavier sees her and how Raven sees herself. The metaphor of the caterpillar morphing into a butterfly is so clichéd that I feel dirty for even typing it, but for Mystique/Raven it fits almost too well. She is a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon of being forced to look normal until Magneto comes along and points her the way to being the butterfly she was always meant to be… a very hostile and angry butterfly.
Breaking away from character analysis, let me bring up the minor quibbles I had about the movie. Let me say this, I have no problem with the characters in the “First Class”. My quibbles com e at how these characters were changed unnecessarily. I don’t see why Banshee couldn’t be a good stereotypical Irish guy like he is in the comics. This is not a slam on Caleb Landry Jones A.K.A. “That Actor I Keep Thinking Is Rupert Grint/Ron Weasely”. He is actually pretty good as young Sean Cassidy. Still would it have been too much for a little Irish brogue?
I also don’t understand why Moira Mactaggert had to be a C.I.A. agent. Given Moira’s Scottish and scientific background in the comics. Having her dumbed down to “Random C.I.A. Operative #212” seems like a disservice to a great character. They could have given her a different name and she would have served the same function in the film. It is too bad that S.H.I.E.L.D. is being saved for The Avengers movie because having an actor as a wise-cracking Clay Quartermain would be awesome. God, I’d kill for Bruce Campbell as Clay Quartermain. These are minor quibbles about a movie where the good far outweighs the bad. Still, there is one thing bugging me that seems like a high crime in the realm of Comic Book Nerdery. Namely this: How can this really be an X-Men movie and NOT a have Stan Lee cameo in it?
Seriously though, to wrap this up, X-Men: First Class is really fucking good. The only comic movie that trumps it is The Dark Knight. Hell, X-Men: First Class has made me re-number my top 5 comic book movies. While The Dark Knight is number 1, my Number 2 had been Superman: The Movie, followed by Spider-Man at number3, Iron Man at Number 4 and Batman Begins at Number 5. X-Men: First Class now takes my Number 2 spot with everything else getting bumped down a notch. Yes, it is that good. It is that entertaining. It is proof that you absolutely do not to have Wolverine be the focus of an X-Men movie for it to be good.